Bringing our first child home from the hospital was a joyous event. But after a few days of sleep deprivation, my wife and I were teetering on the edge of insanity. After a particularly difficult night, I called my mother to apologize for my selfish teenage years. "Now I understand why you were so angry with me," I told her. "I'm finally beginning to understand how much you invested in me. Until a few days ago, I had no idea." I could tell her laughter was tinged with a deep satisfaction.

My daughter turned eight this spring, and watching her mature, along with her two younger siblings, has been bittersweet. Soon we will be leaving the joyful baby-phase of our life, but it also means we'll be leaving the midnight-feedings-and-exploding-diapers phase as well. As one author put it, "It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't."

Spiritual infants present a similar paradox. New believers and young congregations are a source of great joy, and churches ...

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